Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Switzerland Is Neutral, except about Its Firearms ; despite Latest Shootings, Nation Clings to Tradition of Keeping Guns at Hand

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Switzerland Is Neutral, except about Its Firearms ; despite Latest Shootings, Nation Clings to Tradition of Keeping Guns at Hand

Article excerpt

Despite latest shootings, including one that left three women dead and two men wounded, the nation clings to tradition of keeping weapons at hand.

As much as many Americans, the Swiss love their guns, seeing them as integral to their national traditions of self-reliance, independence and international neutrality, with a trained and equipped citizen-army capable of deterring any foolish invader.

Many Swiss, after serving in the army, keep their service weapons at home, and Switzerland has no national register for firearms. Only two years ago, in February 2011, the Swiss handily rejected restrictions on gun ownership in a national referendum.

Those views are unlikely to change soon, even after a mentally imbalanced man shot and killed three women and wounded two men in the southern Swiss village of Daillon on Wednesday evening. The gunman, who was known to the authorities but not thought to be dangerous, was wounded by the police as they arrested him and is now in intensive care.

The gunman, who is 33 and was not named, had been placed in a psychiatric ward in 2005, when guns he then owned were taken from him and destroyed, according to Swiss police in the canton of Valais, about 100 kilometers, or 60 miles, east of Geneva. It is not known how he got the arms he used in the killings -- including a hunting gun and a Swiss Army carbine in use in the first half of the last century, a regional public prosecutor, Catherine Seppey, said at a news conference -- but guns are easily available in Switzerland.

According to villagers who spoke to local news agencies, the gunman was a local, unemployed, on welfare, getting psychiatric care and a ward of the court. On Wednesday around 9 p.m. he began firing from his apartment toward passers-by in the street and neighboring buildings before coming outside and continuing to fire as many as 20 shots. He had been drinking heavily, some villagers told the Swiss Web site 20minutes.ch.

The gunman killed three Daillon women, aged 72, 54 and 32, all shot at least twice, in the head and chest. The two wounded men were 63 and 33; one is in critical condition. The youngest woman killed was married to the younger wounded man, and they had young children together, Ms. …

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